I am a self-published author.
Say it with me!!!!!
There was perhaps a time when saying this was akin to opening up to an addiction in a room of strangers, earning tokens in exchange for divulging intimate secrets. Before I began my arduous journey into this writing malarky, I didn’t really understand what self-publishing was. I – wrongly – believed it was the same as vanity publishing which, of course, it really isn’t.
But to the layman who has never looked into publishing or even writing a story, the term ‘self-published’ may allude to someone not actually being ‘good enough’ to be published by those in the industry.
This is bollocks, obviously.
I will assume that you know what self-published means. I’m sure people reading this are SPAs (Hmm, I don’t think that initialism is going to catch on somehow), too. Some may hope to be very soon. I’m sure most – whether writers, readers, or simply those scanning the internet for something to read – would agree that self-publishing is hard, hard work. Or seems it, anyway.
It’s been said many times that writing the book is the easy part. Well, perhaps not easy, as dedicating your spare time to sit in front of a computer and type words that tell a story that is completely made up, is difficult enough in itself. Those that say “yeah, I could write a book, how hard can it be?” have obviously never tried.
So after typing ‘The End’, taking a massive shot of whisky and collapsing back in your chair, satisfied you’ve done your very best and still have a job and family that support you despite your ‘writer mood swings’; you can relax in the knowledge that it’s a short journey down easy street from now on.
Sorry, but it’s not.
Sure, it’d be great to get your not-even-polished manuscript picked up by an agent or even a large name publisher, then sit back and see the royalty payments come flooding in. Prestigious interviews, lucrative advances on future book releases, your name mentioned alongside the greats; it’s all just around the corner.
But what are the chances of this happening, really? It depends on your writing goal. Does it matter that much to have someone else publish your work, or do you just want your book ‘out there’?
If you decide to follow the self-published path then once you’ve finished the writing part of your story you need to really put in the hours to get it ready to share with the world.
Edits, a cover, a blurb, formatting, promotions; these are all things you may not think of beforehand. You can read plenty of blog posts about all of these steps, but when you actually come to do them yourself you begin to learn how intimidating it all is.
And let me say right now that this isn’t a ‘Ha, I know exactly what to do and am about to tell you lowly writer-types how to be as successful as me’ post. This is just me telling you how hard I found it, and still am finding it today.
Let me give you a brief history of my journey into this world.
My debut horror novella was self-published in January 2019. An Army of Skin (ooh look, a handy link to it) didn’t have mass pre-release glitz and glamour, and it didn’t have horror-hungry savages salivating over its upcoming arrival like hungry wild dogs around a wounded and battered prey. No, it was just uploaded and released via KDP on Amazon once it was complete.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d worked tirelessly on it for 18 months, had 2 editors look over it, and had an awesome cover designed by the great M.R. Tapia to really grab people by throats. So it wasn’t anything just done on a whim.
I suppose it had been so long in the making that waiting around any longer just felt like torture in Hell. The time was ripe, at least I thought it was.
I pimped it on Twitter, did a little blog post, sent a couple of emails to my subscribers (there aren’t many, though) and that was about it.
Surely now the book was out there and available to everyone to read I’d be beating off compliments and high praise with a bloody, gore-encrusted stick, right?
No, not really.
This may sound harsh, but why would anyone read your book, or my book? I don’t mean that in a condescending or defeatist tone at all. But with so many amazing writers and books out there, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Most readers and book bloggers have TBR piles so massive that are added to daily, there is little chance your debut book is going to ever reach the top of said pile.
I’m sure your book is amazing, but who is going to take a chance on it when they already have thousands to get through first, with many more to be released in the coming months?
So what did I do about it? How did I get people to read my book?
Threats? Kidnapping? Cyber terrorism? None of those approaches worked, unfortunately, so I decided to try the next best, non-threatening thing.
I sent copies of An Army of Skin to a handful of book reviewers and bloggers post-release, which was certainly not the correct way round to do it. Those who received it were very kind enough to publish reviews and said some nice things about my story.
But did these do anything to boost sales?
No, not really.
Before self-publishing I was already following some great horror review sites, so assumed that once a review was posted on these sites then the downloads of the book would hit a little peak as fellow readers thought they might want to check it out.
So surely if my book was reviewed alongside these other releases, readers of the site would flock over to Amazon and get clicking that Buy button.
A little annoyingly, this never happened. The thing is, quite naively, I really thought and even expected that I’d make some sales this way. I’m not complaining, though, I really do get it. Just see my aforementioned thoughts on why someone wouldn’t buy any debut offering.
But it can be a little soul destroying when you see peoples thoughts published online for the world to see and then no one seems to take a chance on your little story.
It’s tough, but you battle on. You have to.
For my next release I tried to up my game. The Mind’s Plague & Other Bites of Brutality (look how clever I am with these little linkies) is a collection of 10 short stories. For this one I tried to plan a little more. I set a release date of August 2019, did the aforementioned promo ting I did with An Army of Skin (copies sent to reviewers, a blog post, newsletter, Twitter-pimping), but this time did it well in advance, like months.
Hopefully, now reviewers had plenty of time to read and post their thoughts on the stories, once the release date arrived I’d already have a buzz going for it.
I had a game plan. I’d learnt from my past naivety, so surely this time things would be different. Surely this time I’d be thrown into the literature limelight and have to shield my eyes from the blinding lights. Watch out world, and all that!
So did ‘Plague take off in a way that ‘Skin could only dream of…..?
Erm, no, not really.
To be honest it was pretty much the same as before. But again, I’m not complaining, this is all character-building and will make me more productive in the future. Before undertaking all of this I’d read plenty of blog posts about how hard self-publishing is, so this wasn’t a shock.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I suppose that we all think it will be different for us. When you put something out there that you’re really proud of and truly believe in, you kind of look at it through rose-tinted glasses, expecting everyone else to take a chance on it and really enjoy your work.
‘They’ always said it wasn’t like that, and they were right.
This post was never supposed to be this long, so thanks for sticking around if you’re still here. I also didn’t mean for it to be too downbeat, although I hope it isn’t. Here’s a cute cat to raise the mood a bit.
I’d been planning on writing this for a while now and while thinking about it, came up with other things I wanted to share about this self-publishing journey. So I’ve cut it a bit short now but plan to write more posts on these topics in the future. I was all set to cover requesting reviews, as well as Amazon advertising, book promotions, and trying to make the most out of promoting on Twitter.
I hope you’ll stick around and check out these posts, too. And above all, keep writing and don’t let some horror dude put you off releasing that truly awesome book you’ve written.
Many, many thanks y’all!!
Photo on VisualHunt.com
Photo on VisualHunt.com